“The Block Makes It Go”: Causal Language Helps Toddlers Integrate Prediction, Action, and Expectations about Contact Relations

Abstract

Some researchers have suggested that correlation information and information about action are bound in a single representation: “causal knowledge”. If children have only observed correlation information, do they spontaneously try to generate the effect? Do they represent the relationship as potentially causal? We present three action and looking-time studies that suggest that even when toddlers (mean; 24 months) predict that one event will follow another, they neither initiate the first event to try to generate the second (as preschoolers, mean 47 months, do spontaneously), nor do they expect that the predictive relations will involve physical contact. Toddlers succeed at both of these inferences when the events are described using causal language. This suggests that causal language plays a role in helping children recognize the relationship between prediction, action, and contact causality.


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